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Your Worst Enemy When Buying a New Car

When buying a car we can wrap ourselves in numbers, comparisons, interest rates and all kinds of other research projects that have a mathematical sound to them. But often, when it comes down to the moment of truth, the car we buy, how we buy it and how much we pay are determined more by our emotions than by the numbers.

This is also very likely our biggest problem!

You see, buying a car is first and foremost a business deal. When emotions take over, it becomes something entirely different. At that point, the possibility of making a major financial mistake is magnified many times over.

When car shopping, it’s important to remember that you’re not buying a puppy; no matter how much you may love a car, it will not love you back. Ever.

Your Worst Enemy When Buying a New Car

Your Worst Enemy When Buying a New Car

And even though it isn’t a dog, it might still bite back! A few months later, when the emotional high of the new purchase has worn off, and the financial reality of what you’ve allowed your heart to lead you into begins to hit home, you might start seeing some teeth marks in your check book.

By then, it’ll be too late.

How emotions interfere with business deals

Since a car is tangible—a physical thing—it’s easy to get caught up in superficial factors. And since cars occupy such a central place in the perception that we have of ourselves—and even how others see us, emotionalizing the purchase is close to a default setting.

How can emotions interfere with sound business thinking when buying a car?

  • They can convince us to buy a more expensive car than we can afford, or to take options we don’t need
  • They can drive us to buy or lease a new car when we should be in a used one
  • They can cause us to obsess on superficial factors like color schemes
  • They can make us sympathetic to the car salesman—we want to give him our business because we like him, despite the fact that he’s our natural enemy in the deal
  • They can distract us into thinking that we can self-actualize by buying a certain car, one that might enable us to be the person we want to be in life

I’m not saying that some of these considerations aren’t important on some level, only that from a financial standpoint, they have potential to do us great harm.

For this reason, all of this thinking has to be left at home when you’re buying a car. Bring it into the dealership at buying time, and you’ll be increasing the sizeable advantage the car dealership staff already have at the negotiating table.

What you should be concerned with when buying a new car

OK, so forget about the color of the car, how nice the salesman is, what a car will do for your image, or all the other meaningless, dealer-inspired tangents that can seem so vitally important when you’re making the buy. What should you be focusing on instead?

  1. Your budget, and what vehicle will fit in it best
  2. The debt level you’ll be taking on vs. the stability of your income
  3. The real value of the car you’re buying, and the one your selling or trading in
  4. The written details of the deal being offered—NOT the pleasant sounding verbal gibberish they’re feeding you to move you deep enough into the transaction that you’ll think it’s too late to walk out
  5. The true necessity/complete lack of necessity of any options or add-ons the dealer is pushing, particularly at the last moment

Sorry if none of that is as much fun as the color of the car or of taking a liking to your salesman, but again buying a car is a business deal, the results of which will affect your finances for years to come.

The one time you should follow your emotions

In Your Nuclear Option at a Car Dealership we talked a bit about “the little voice inside” (that’s never wrong!). When it’s telling us something isn’t right, it’s time to bail out and move on to the next deal.

Paradoxically, while positive emotions can get us into trouble by overriding our intellect, negative emotions seldom steer us wrong. The same emotional make up that can blind us with good feelings—into doing something we shouldn’t—seems far better at evaluating complex conditions and telling us when something isn’t right.

Maybe what I’m describing isn’t emotion based at all, but some sort of sub-conscious intellectual mechanism that’s processing information at a speed we can’t put into words. What ever it is—emotional or intellectual—when you get that gut feeling that something isn’t right, it probably isn’t, and you’ll do well heed it and move on.

The dealership staff are already hard at work separating you from your money. Don’t give them any help by letting your emotions control your decision making ability.

Have you ever let your emotions run the deal when you bought a new car? How did it turn out?

( Photo by theogeo )


4 Responses to Your Worst Enemy When Buying a New Car

  1. Your biggest enemy in just about ANY financial decision is YOU and your emotions. That is how humans are hardwired. I think understanding that simple fact can help tremendously get a hand up on the “Thrill of Spending.”

  2. Kevin M says:

    Agreed John, but I think it tends to be even more prevelant with a tangible, status-driven purchase like cars. We visualize ourselves in them–because we can–and all sorts of emotion driven notions appear in our minds eye. While we’re focusing on the emotional factors, the dealership staff is focused on the numbers, where we need to be. Small wonder they come out ahead in so many deals.

  3. Pleasant sounding verbal gibberish, great way to phrase it! You absolutley must examine everything before you sign for discrepenices from what you are told. Don’t take anyone’s word for it.

  4. Kevin says:

    CNC – Yeah it’s that predictable chain of verbal assurances that they throw at you to keep you in the deal. Maybe if they feed you enough, and it’s all so positive, you won’t bother to read what the contract actually says. At that point, chalk up another win for the dealer.

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